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South Texas Town Mourns Victims Of Mass Church Shooting


Residents of Sutherland Springs, Texas, are trying to hold each other up and to push back the horror of the shooting yesterday that left 26 people dead. Friends, neighbors, families all gathered at a candlelight vigil last night.


STEPHEN CURRY: May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord makes his face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you. May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.


CURRY: Amen.



CURRY: Go in peace.


R. MARTIN: It is a blessing that the congregation at First Baptist Church might have heard on Sunday morning. They had been gathered together for services, as they were every Sunday - to pray, to find peace. Then a gunman opened fire. Freeman Martin of the Texas Department of Public Safety gave this description.


FREEMAN MARTIN: He was dressed in all black. The suspect crossed the street to the church, exit his vehicle and began firing at the church. The suspect then moved to the right side of the church and continued to fire. That suspect entered the church and continued to fire.

R. MARTIN: President Donald Trump expressed his condolences for the victims. While on a visit to Japan, he called for unity and said guns are not to blame.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: This is a mental health problem at the highest level. It's a very, very sad event. It's a - these are great people and a very, very sad event. But that's the way I view it.

R. MARTIN: David Martin Davies from San Antonio member station KSTX was at the vigil last night in Sutherland Springs. He joins us now.

Thanks so much for being with us.

DAVID MARTIN DAVIES, BYLINE: I'm sorry it's under such terrible circumstances.

R. MARTIN: Indeed. Can you get us up to speed on the investigation, first of all? What can you tell us?

DAVIES: Well, the latest we're learning about the gunman, Devin Patrick Kelley, 26-year-old - he's from New Braunfels, Texas, which is just to the north of San Antonio. And he was court-martialed out of the Air Force for family violence against his wife and child a few years ago. We don't know what his connection was with the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs. We don't even know if there is one.

Were there any signs that this was coming on social media or direct contact with the church? That needs to be answered. And we're trying to get a official release of the names of those who were killed in the shooting. That could come today. And the church remains an active crime scene.

R. MARTIN: You were at this vigil last night, David. Can you describe what you saw, what you heard?

DAVIES: Over a hundred members of the community gathered last night - candles, prayers, tears. Pastor Stephen Curry from the nearby La Vernia United Methodist Church spoke to the crowd, and here's what he had to say.


CURRY: We are we going to be tomorrow? We are going to be the people of Texas.


CURRY: ...The people of Sutherland Springs.



CURRY: ...The people of First Baptist Church.



CURRY: We are going to be God's people.


CURRY: We are going to be servants of the king.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: That's right.


CURRY: And we are going to show compassion where compassion needs to be shown. We will mourn the dead. We will lift up the families who are hurting. We will offer them what we can.

DAVIES: I spoke to that pastor and asked him, well, what about your church? And what - are you going to do anything different there after this shooting just down the street? And this was his response.

CURRY: We can't make our churches fortresses. They're supposed to be open for people to come in and worship. We have people in our church that we - in our congregation, we do have officers who worship in our congregation, and we will listen to their advice and their instruction as to how they feel we can best deal with this as far as safety. But we're - the doors of the church are to be open as a place of prayer for all people.

R. MARTIN: This is a small town, right, David? I imagine people know each other, so the grief is that much more intense.

DAVIES: They know each other very well. This is a community - then - everyone knows everyone. It's very close. And everyone I spoke to at the vigil knew someone in that church. And not only are they, you know, mourning the loss, but they're also very worried about people that are still in surgery trying to - know - recover because many people have multiple gunshot wounds, and they don't know what the future holds for them.

R. MARTIN: What is expected today? I mean, how does Sutherland Springs move on with their Monday morning after this? Are schools going to be open?

DAVIES: Yeah, schools will be open. I hate to say it, but, you know, it's back to normal for Sutherland Springs. But, you know, schools reopen, life goes on. But it's never going to be normal again for this part of Texas. This is a place where one person told me they felt safe. They thought their rural isolation made them safe, but they don't feel that way anymore, and they may not feel that way ever again.

R. MARTIN: David Martin Davies - reporter from San Antonio member station KSTX. David, thanks so much.

DAVIES: Good to talk to you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Martin Davies is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience covering Texas, the border and Mexico.

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